Reviewed by Brenda S. (Alumni)
The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions.
Christopher K Germer, PhD (published by The Guilford Press, 2009).
This book is an excellent easy read that blends perfectly with our MBCPM courses. Germer explains that when things go wrong we get stuck in the shame and blame cycle, which causes more emotional pain. He encourages us to label and accept our emotions and offer ourselves the same compassion that we would offer a friend in distress.
Pain x Resistance = Suffering
In the first section of his book, Germer discusses Discovering Self-Compassion, where he encourages us to be kind to ourselves and listen to our bodies, “bear witness to our own pain and respond with kindness and understanding”. Germer teaches us the futility of resistance, the more we resist anxiety the more it is fueled. Consider when we can’t sleep and we get anxious as to how the next day is going to be ruined without rest creating a vicious cycle that ensures sleep won’t happen. Better to accept that sleep is out of the question and accept that you will survive the day regardless and why not use this time to meditate. “Your relationship to sleeplessness has to shift. Once you begin to truly, genuinely accept not sleeping, your body will finally get a chance to rest” (p 20). When dealing with difficult emotions he encourages a meditation to label the emotions and where they sit in our bodies and then to “soften, allow and love” (p 67). He teaches “three mindfulness-based skills we can use to handle difficult emotions: (1) focused awareness, (2) open-field awareness, and (3) loving-kindness.”(p 81). After we mindfully “feel the pain” we use self-compassion to“cherish yourself in the midst of the pain”.
In the second section he teaches how to practice loving-kindness and introduces the meta meditation “May I be safe, May I be happy, May I be healthy, May I live with ease.”(p 134) and then encourages us to think of beloved family members and friends in this way and then distant associates and then those whom we have enmity with and then the population of the world as a whole. Once we care for ourselves we are free to care for others.
In the third section, Germer encourages us to find balance and looks into various personality types that we may identify with and how to use compassion to free ourselves from self-imposed hindrance.